While on our last adventure through Bhuj, we stopped in to see a craftsman making traditional copper bells. The bells begin as scrap metal. Strips in the desired length and width are cut using heavy shears. The strips are then hammered into shape. Three pieces of metal are used per bell – the round wall of the bell, the rounded top, and then a smaller strip which is used for the loop. The entire bell is hand-hammered together. There is absolutely no welding involved in the making of these bells. They are completely hammered together. It took just about 12 minutes to make the bell by hand. The master artisans can tone a bell by ear as they create it to make any pitch they want! They are able to make musical instruments and create the most lovely windchimes. Traditionally they were made for livestock as the cows, water buffalo, goats, and sheep are herded throughout the Rann. The bells made it easier to find them if they wandered off and to identify who owned the animals.
The next step in the process of making the bells is coating them in copper. While the hammering of the bells is done by the men, the women take the completed bells and dip them in a powder which includes copper, then in a wet mud They make sure to pack the bell inside and out. Once the coated bells have dried, they are fired in a kiln and left to dry again. Once the process is complete, the mud pack is broken off to reveal a lovely copper colored bell! A wooden clapper is tied to the inside and the bell is finished. The tone of the bell changes with the firing process, so only a true master can create the tones he wants by hearing the sound of the bell before it goes in the kiln. The bells are now assembled in a variety of products for market as well as traditional livestock markers. From keychains to windchimes to candle holders to instruments, they have a beautiful selection of items that suit the modern home. They also had a four day old baby goat who was trying to “help” by eating the burlap holding the mud!
In the shop we have an exclusive collection of windchimes left in stock and some keychains featuring these fabulous bells. Come in to hear the beautiful tones created by the masters in Bhuj! Photos by Dana of Urban Utopia Photography. Want to see how the artists make the handicrafts we feature in our shop? See below for details on our next adventure!